Asplenium

With its appealing common name of bird's nest fern, Asplenium nidus is almost assured of being popular. But. into the bargain, it is also a very fine foliage plant in its own right and when well grown can hold its own in almost any company. The leaves are smooth and pale green in colour and are arranged in the form of a shuttlecock. They must, however, be handled with the greatest care as they are very easily damaged. Scale insects can be troublesome and should be carefully washed off with a soft sponge that has been soaked in insecticide.

Aspleniums need steady warmth, shaded locations and fairly high humidity if they arc to do well. Given these conditions and a reasonable amount of luck, plants of the bird's nest fem will attain quite majestic proportions in time with individual leaves 3 ft (I m) or more in length. It is, however, a long, slow business to grow plants to specimen size and such grand results should not be expected in the living room. Small delicate plants can, with advantage, be confined to a growing case until they are of reasonable size. Many of the larger propagating cases, made of plastic and not too expensive, are ideal for this purpose

Potting on into larger containers should only be necessary every second or third year once plants have advanced beyond their small initial pots. A well drained peaty compost will suit them best, and when watering they will benefit if rain water can be used. New plants can be raised from spores sown on the surface of sandy peat, but this is a difficult task best left to the nurseryman.

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